WWC review of this study

The struggle to pass algebra: Online vs. face-to-face credit recovery for at-risk urban students.

Heppen, J. B., Sorensen, N., Allensworth, E., Walters, K., Rickles, J., Taylor, S. S., & Michelman, V. (2016). Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19345747.2016.1168500

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    1,224
     Students
    in grades
    9-10
No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards without reservations

Reviewed: February 2017

College readiness outcomes—Statistically significant negative effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

On track for high school graduation (%)

Online Algebra I credit recovery courses vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Full sample;
1,015 students

28

25

No

--
More Outcomes

Recovered Algebra I credit (%)

Online Algebra I credit recovery courses vs. Business as usual

1 Semester

Full sample;
1,224 students

66

78

Yes

-14
 
 
General academic achievement (high school) outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Score on the PLAN math test

Online Algebra I credit recovery courses vs. Business as usual

1 Year

Full sample;
878 students

14.16

13.94

No

--
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Score on the PLAN Algebra subtest

Online Algebra I credit recovery courses vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Full sample;
878 students

5.42

5.27

No

--

Score on the end-of-course posttest

Online Algebra I credit recovery courses vs. Business as usual

1 Semester

Full sample;
1,224 students

272.97

279.62

No

--
Progressing in school outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Cumulative math credits earned

Online Algebra I credit recovery courses vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Full sample;
1,015 students

2.39

2.51

No

--
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Earned course credit in Geometry or higher (%)

Online Algebra I credit recovery courses vs. Business as usual

1 Year

Full sample;
1,120 students

53

54

No

--

Earned course credit in Geometry or higher (%)

Online Algebra I credit recovery courses vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Full sample;
1,056 students

47

48

No

--

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • 86% Free or reduced price lunch

  • Female: 38%
    Male: 62%
  • Race
    Black
    33%
    Not specified
    59%
    White
    8%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic
    57%
    Not Hispanic
    43%

  • Urban
    • B
    • A
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    Midwest

Setting

The study took place in 17 Chicago Public Schools that participated in the study during the summers of 2011 and 2012. Schools were recruited to participate in the research because they had summer school programs and large numbers of students who failed Algebra I in the second semester of their freshman year.

Study sample

Over the two summers, 1,224 students participated. There were 613 students assigned to the intervention (online) condition, while 611 students were assigned to the comparison (face-to-face) condition. Eleven schools participated in both 2011 and 2012, four participated in 2011 only, and two schools participated in 2012 only. Each school had at least two credit recovery courses: one online, and the other face-to-face. There were 63 school staff who participated as either teachers and/or mentors. Over the two cohorts, there were 34 face-to-face algebra teachers and 30 in-class mentors. Aventa Learning, the online course provider, selected six online teachers for the study, all of whom were certified to teach mathematics. Students in the intervention condition were 38% female and 56% Latino, while the comparison condition was 37% female and 58% Latino. The full sample (i.e., not disaggregated by condition) was 38% female, 57% Hispanic, 33% African American, 8% White, and 2% other races/ethnicities. In the full sample, 86% of the students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, 12% were eligible for special education services, and 47% were native Spanish speakers. The proportion of students who passed Algebra IA (first semester of Algebra) was similar across groups (40% in the intervention group and 41% in the comparison group). Only 5% of students in each condition came from census blocks with concentrated poverty.

Intervention Group

Summer Algebra credit recovery courses designed by Aventa Learning were offered to high school students who had failed Algebra I in the second semester of their freshman year. The intervention condition was an online course that focused on typical second-semester Algebra I (designed as a 60-hour course). This included systems of equations, polynomials, quadratics and radicals, rational expressions, and exponentials. The instructional content of the online version was standardized with clear ordering of topics, but flexible in terms of student pacing (in face-to-face classes, teachers have flexibility of content and sequencing, but pacing is generally uniform for the whole class). The online courses were delivered via computer in computer labs at the high schools. Each course was taught by two instructors: one online teacher and one in-class mentor. The course took place over one or both of two 3- to 4-week summer sessions at each participating school.

Comparison Group

The comparison condition received traditional, face-to-face Algebra I instruction by a certified mathematics instructor. The content tended to include both second semester Algebra I topics, as well as pre-Algebra and first semester Algebra I topics; about 50% of the content was from the second semester Algebra I course, while the remaining 50% was derived from first semester Algebra and pre-Algebra courses. The course took place over one or both of two 3- to 4-week summer sessions at each participating school. Face-to-face courses had one instructor and were delivered in traditional classrooms. The face-to-face courses used teacher-created and published materials, including textbooks. Teachers had flexibility of content and sequencing, but pacing was generally uniform for the whole class. In-class mentors provided feedback and communication on students’ progress.

Support for implementation

The in-class mentors and the face-to-face teachers were paid their regular teaching rates, and the online teachers were paid by the number of students enrolled in the course, which ended up being slightly higher than face-to-face teachers. In-class mentors received training on how to use the online course system, how to monitor student progress, and how to communicate with online teachers. The online teachers received ongoing professional development and support from Aventa. The face-to-face teachers received traditional supports from their schools and district for teaching summer Algebra classes.

In the case of multiple manuscripts that report on one study, the WWC selects one manuscript as the primary citation and lists other manuscripts that describe the study as additional sources.

  • Heppen, J., Allensworth, E., Sorensen, N., Rickles, J., Walters, K., Taylor, S., ... Clements, P. (2016). Getting back on track: Comparing the effects of online and face-to-face credit recovery in Algebra I (Research Brief 1). Retrieved from http://www.air.org/

  • Rickles, J., Heppen, H., Taylor, S., Allensworth, E., Michelman, V., Sorensen, N.,...Clements, P. (2016). Getting back on track: Who need to recover algebra credit after ninth grade? (Research Brief 3). Retrieved from http://www.air.org/

  • Taylor, S., Clements, P., Heppen, J., Rickles, J., Sorensen, N., Walters, K., ... Michelman, V. (2016). Getting back on track: The role of in-person instructional support for students taking online credit recovery (Research Brief 2). Retrieved from http://www.air.org/

 

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